When we are thinking, we are not present with all of ourselves. We are not present with our bodies. We are not present with the way we feel. We are not present in the world. We are not present with other people. We are only present with the unfolding of thoughts and wherever our attention to those thoughts take us, regardless of whether that place is positive or painful. And this happens so unconsciously that we don’t even really know what we are thinking about specifically unless we decide to specifically observe our thoughts.
In the modern world, we cope with our minds. If something is too painful to experience physically or emotionally because we feel powerless to change it, we cope by retreating into the mind. We give thought all of our attention. Pretty soon, we don’t rule the mind. The mind rules us instead.
A thought is only as strong as the attention you give it. It gets its power from your interest. What you have no interest in is not registered in your mind as existent. The mind is not present because thoughts that are being responded to by the law of attraction are always about what’s next. It is the mechanism for expansion. The you that is getting pulled and sucked in by thoughts is the real you, which exists beyond thoughts, emotion and body. This is what we have been calling spirit or being. If you were the thoughts you were thinking, if who you are is the mind, you could not watch your thoughts. Watching your thoughts requires you to be looking at them. You can’t look at them and be inside them at the same time. This must mean that at some level, you are separate from thoughts in the same way that an artist is separate from his own painting as well as other artist’s paintings that he is looking at.
However, thoughts are a bit more complex in that they are not just created by you. Your mind is not only creating thoughts, it is also perceiving them. It is perceiving thoughts that are not even yours to begin with. Thoughts are subject to the law of attraction. If a thought is fed with focus or attention for about 16 seconds, it begins to attract other thoughts of a like frequency. For example, if you are sitting on an airplane and you think about crashing and if the fear you feel causes you to focus on that thought, you will begin to attract other thoughts that vibrate at a similar frequency. Even thoughts that have been thought by other passengers or people who have ridden in that plane before. Often, this causes us to spiral downwards until we are in a panic. This is a problem because if we do this for just over a minute, we begin to attract physical experiences that are a match to the frequency of those thoughts. For example, if we are in panic because of thoughts of crashing in a plane, we tend to attract experiences that enhance the panic. Things like turbulence and electrical malfunctions and meeting people that have been in plane crashes for example.
Because thoughts attract thoughts, we can see this as a kind of unconscious momentum that begins the process of painful manifestation. It is easy to enter a downward spiral of painful emotional experience and then painful manifestation because without meaning to, our mind becomes like a run away train. For this reason, one of the most beneficial things to learn is how to stop thought.
Stopping thought is like stripping the momentum out of a runaway train so you can deliberately direct it. Doing this is putting your own mind in a position to be used like an instrument instead of being used by your mind.
The first thing to understand about stopping thought is that you cannot NOT think about something. In fact trying not to focus on anything is a sure fire way to lose control of your thoughts. It works the same way that trying not to think about a single thought does. If I tell you “don’t focus on lemons”. You just thought about lemons. And the more you try to not think about lemons, the more you think of lemons. This is because in a law of attraction based universe, there is no such thing as exclusion. There is no such thing as not something.
So how do you stop thought? You close your eyes and pick something specific to focus on in your mind. You dedicate all of your attention to that thought or that thing. You make sure that the thing you are focusing on is not a complex or a big thought. You make sure it is something that you don’t have a lot of feeling or other thoughts about.
Some of my favorites are:
- The image of a blue sky
- A blank white sheet of paper
- A part of my body, like my knee
- The sound of my own breathing
- The sound of a faucet or air conditioner
- A solid color that appeals to me on a given day
- A mantra
- My heart beat
You will notice that thoughts come like little wormholes or like the opening to a vacuum cleaner tube and sort of suck you in. They tempt you. They suck your interest in with a subconscious gravity so that soon, you are paying attention to their separate linear story line. Pretty soon, you realize you are not focusing on the thing you were supposed to be focused on anymore. Instead of focusing on a blank blue sky, you have re lived an event that happened earlier in the day for example. It’s like a trance. When this happens, name the thought that interrupted your attention by naming it either mentally or out loud. Doing this means you are not engaged in the thought process anymore. You have “called it out” and by doing so, you have halted the momentum of the energy you were feeding into it so it can’t attract any more similar thoughts. And direct your attention back to the thing you were originally focused on.
When you do this exercise, you will notice your mind rebelling. Like a wild horse, it will fight for your attention. But soon the thoughts will subside. You will feel the peace of focusing on what feels like nothing.
If your thoughts are particularly pervasive visually, you can add a variation to the practice. You can see the thoughts as they pop up to try to take your attention as being distanced from you somehow. For example, if you are focused on a blue sky, as thoughts come up, see them as clouds and visualize them floating by like clouds come and go. Or if you are focused on a blank sheep to paper, see the thoughts as drawings that come up on the surface of that paper and crumple them and visualize them being thrown into a waste paper basket. If your thoughts are pervasively auditory, you can imagine hearing a vacuum sucking each one of them in as they show up so you cannot hear them anymore.
Make sure that when thoughts come to rob your attention, you do not resist them by trying to pull away from them or by blocking them or by ignoring them. This resistance to them actually also feeds them. Instead, put yourself in the mindset to expect them and acknowledge in a welcoming way that they have shown up. And when they show up and you recognize them, merely help them go where you want them to go as if you were sorting something that was coming to you on a conveyor belt. This is a practice of non-attachment.
Feel free to get as creative as you would like with ways to lovingly disable the thoughts as they come up to try to rob your attention. And just continue to re-direct your attention back to the original thing that you chose to focus on. Expect that to begin with and potentially forever, this will be what you have to do in order to stop thought. But the more practice you get, the easier it becomes. You will be able to stop thought in this way at random times throughout the day without having to close your eyes.
Practicing stopping thought means you will soon have a choice what trains of thought you will fuel with the momentum of your focus and which ones you will not. And I cannot tell you how much freedom you will feel when you experience this as an actual choice.